September 11, 2001; I was still living in NYC, on East 85th Street. After dropping my daughter off at school that morning, I walked into my favorite local deli to get a bagel. The owner of the shop was on the phone with his wife and he told me about a plane hitting one of the Towers. When I walked back outside, there were several official SUV’s with sirens blazing as they headed around the corner to Gracie Mansion where Mayor Giuliani resided. I considered walking back home but chose instead to go to work where I immediately called my wife. She turned on the TV and, as she was describing the situation, the second plane hit. It was then abundantly clear this was no accident and I was sickened by the thought of it. My wife was scheduled to go to my daughter’s school and chaperone the cafeteria area where voting machines were placed for the primaries that day. I urged her to go and she and several other parents stayed all day long retrieving children from classrooms as worried and frazzled parents arrived at the school. Since several parents worked at the World Trade Center, there was a fear that some parents might not arrive at all. Unfortunately, that tragic reality did occur for several of my daughter’s classmates. I met my wife at the school later that day and I took our daughter home. Concerned about the possibility of a food shortage since all traffic into the City was prohibited, I decided to stop in a super market for bread, milk and a few other essentials. Holding my daughter’s hand, we were just about to enter the store when the muzzle of an automatic rifle stopped us in our tracks. A National Guard member was posted out front of the market, limiting the number of people in the store at one time. The world had certainly changed. Later that night, I helped my friend who owns a restaurant on the Upper East Side, distribute food as hundreds of weary people walked uptown because the buses and subways had stopped running. We gave out free meals to anyone that stopped, although most continued marching by in a trance-like state, dejected. When I finally returned home, my wife and I were transfixed by the images on TV. It was the first video of the events that I had seen all day and it is one of the few times in my life where my imagination was actually surpassed by film footage. Neighbors began checking in on one other and, of course, we learned of several losses in our building. A young man in an apartment below us never returned. He was very kind and often played with my daughter and her best friend whenever they were in the lobby. Particularly sad was the loss suffered by the fire department right next to our building. Nine fire fighters from that station died that day. These were men that we saw everyday on our way to school and work. They were always hanging around outside the station house, with a simple nod or “hello”, bending down to greet children in strollers and always happy to place a kid on one of the trucks.
There was one part of the day however that gave me some sense of hope. Before collecting my daughter at the school, I paid a quick visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is one of my favorite places on earth and I needed to be reassured that mankind still possessed the ability to produce wondrously beautiful things in a world that had just witnessed its worst.